AFL Round 8 – West Coast v North Melbourne: 27 seconds

Fiji 1 – Sudan 1

Rarely can an anticlimax have had such a ridiculously dramatic conclusion.

After a couple of years of adjusting to his body and the challenge of playing against less physically able but more experienced opponents, Nic Naitanui has become a generational player. I remember seeing some of his early games, and it was a disconcerting combination of moments of brilliance and moments where bits of his body clearly had only limited idea of what the other bits were doing.  Since then, he’s done things that you can’t really describe with actual words, you just have to drink cognac and listen to whatever the most inspirational piece of music you know is, and then somehow imagine that all happening on a football field with fireworks and dancing girls.

Majak Daw is possibly in the same place Naitanui was, and it’s only to be hoped that in a few year he’ll get somewhere near where he is now.  If he does, games between these two clubs are going to be well worth watching for years to come.

As it was, the moment we’d anticipated tonight was an anticlimax for the ages.  An open, entertaining first eighth of the game had resolved itself into a one sided flogging at quarter time, and North were deservedly three goals up at the turn.  The second quarter started optimistically for the Eagles, but progress was slow.  Then, to quote Mark Maclure, all of a sudden there were Naitanui and Daw facing off at a centre bounce.  If you don’t pay extra attention at moments like that, then frankly you may as well go and watch Infomercials, or the IPL or something.

I’m a big fan of the bounce, but alas this wasn’t the one we all wanted.  Instead it hung over Daw’s head and even though Naitanui took off from near the Subiaco Hotel he was still just above Daw’s knees when Majak won a clear tap.  It just might have been the first hit out in a clash on the Jakovich-Carey scale (and as a West Coast man I’ll be hoping for the same outcome!). Let’s all hope for that.

The second quarter sees the Eagles take a few hits, and kick a few points.  The Roos are getting numbers to the ball, and while West Coast’s best is clearly better, North are working harder and deservedly in a game that should have been hard for them to win.  In the end, in just about any sport, having more players getting their hands on the ball will take you a long way.

The third quarter is a good quarter of football.  WC don’t take their chances and North do, and again that is what gets you into a winning position. Atley, Hansen, Black are all good for North.  Masten is doing a fair bit for WC, but their vaunted ruck division is getting thumped.  It’s probably a good game to watch if you’re a neutral fan, and a North fan – but it’s frankly frustrating as all **** as a WC fan. Just kick a bloody goal for once will you? To underscore that Naitanui-Daw is a future clash, Daw is subbed out with one goal and more than a few missed opportunities.

Anyway, in the last quarter North keep working harder, and get out to 15 points with half a quarter to go.  But you know they aren’t going to score again.  There is an inevitability about it getting back to less than a goal.  It’s just the way AFL games go these days – at that point the team in front knows they’re going to get run down, and the team behind know they’re going to get back into it.  In the end, one of the many Selwoods banged the ball deep into the forward line with a four point deficit and 33 seconds on the clock.  It frankly hasn’t looked like West Coast could win since about Thursday, but in the background Nic Naitanui is just visible.

Time as we generally understand it breaks down. The law of gravity becomes discretionary.  As Selwood’s kick hangs in the air, every registered player in the AFL and most of the people who have ever bought an Eagles or North Melbourne jumper gather in a group near the Western goal.  Nic Naitanui catches a bus from near UWA and takes off just past the Shenton Park Hotel.  He smashes into a crowd which is unofficially estimated to be well above 2,000 people at something like 920kmh, but somehow is the only one to touch the ball.  If it’s not mark of the year, then the whoever judges these things is missing the point –  a club with 40,000+ members and millions of supporters has its entire season on the line.  Two clubs, if you don’t mind fiddling the numbers a little.

He goes back with 27 seconds left.  Thanks to the magic of the countdown timer, it’s obvious that his kick will be after the siren, which thankfully takes a lot of the tension out of the moment.  The siren sounds just as he starts his run up, and he pauses and goes back.  Given WC have kicked 1.56 since halfway through the first quarter, I can’t be totally confident – but there is something about his body language that suggests a goal.

The whole thing comes down to one kick, and Naitanui bangs it just fractionally left of the Yellow Dot.  Well before it crosses the line he is high fiving in the crowd – only for a moment though, before being swamped with team mates who are clearly very aware they’d just been bought a lifeline in a season where there is no more room for missed opportunities. The North players are justifiably disconsolate, a flipside of sport which is more painful but just as important to the concept as Naitanui’s unrestrained joy.  Daw watches from the sidelines, and I am very pleased to see he has cast aside the ridiculous red vest when he joins his teammates on field.

In truth, it’s likely that neither team was really playing for much tonight.  Finishing 5th-8th is Fools Gold.  It’s no more making the finals than wherever Richmond finish up, and for tonight’s winner it’s likely that’s all they can aspire too.  Nonetheless, as players and as fans we are still deeply invested in that slim chance. My weekend will be much better for that one last kick, after a night mostly spent writing increasingly angry notes whilst trying to work out why it was all going so wrong.  The dream lives for another week, so that is all good I guess.

And now, having watched the Post game ads, if you’ll excuse me I feel a strong need to either buy a home exercise machine that can turn me into a sexy volleyballing machine, or buy me a few Indian cricketers.  Ah, what the heck, I’m feeling like splashing out on something expensive, so I think I’m going the exercise machine.  And cranking a bit of Wig Wam Bam on YouTube while I sip a Hennessy and hopefully dream about Nic Naitanui.  Again.

WEST COAST                    3.2    4.9    8.14    12.18 (90)
NORTH MELBOURNE     6.1    7.4    10.6    13.10 (88)

GOALS
West Coast:
Hill 3, Kennedy 2, Shuey 2, Cox, Darling, LeCras, Masten, Naitanui
North Melbourne: Black 3, Harvey 2, Wright, Wells, Thompson, Petrie, Cunnington, Daw, Ziebell, Swallow

 

BEST
West Coast:
Naitanui, Masten, the Selwoods, Hurn
North Melbourne: Atley, Hansen, Black

Umpires: Dalgleish, Nicholls, Meredith

Official crowd: 38,146 at Subiaco Oval

 

Our Votes: Naitanui (3), Atley (2), Masten (1)

Comments

  1. Once more North snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This time proving you don’t have to be dead to be stiff. A well told saga Dave.

  2. Peter_B says:

    Exactly as it looked from the middle tier of the stand at the Merv Cowan Gates end of the ground. Well told Dave.
    Terrific contest all night. First game I have enjoyed all season. We were the better team after quarter time, and it was North’s efficiency/WCE wastefulness on goal that kept them in front most of the night.
    The only thing you didn’t mention is our injuries which made the win particularly gutsy. Wellingham off and sub on early. Down to 2 rotations by mid third quarter. Shuey and Brennan also banged up – but both played great games. Kerr good after quarter time – it takes 30 minutes for his knees to get lubricated.
    Speaking of lubricated – I will write something on the game when the Iroquois in my head stop with the tom toms.
    Cheers (I said that too many times last night).

  3. zaacman says:

    Last year I listened to Cox kick West Coast 2 pts in front on the 16th at Yarrah Bend. This year much beer was spilled as we danced around the front bar at Young & Jackson’s. And I don’t even go for West Coast! North are turning into a much better team than they’re cracked up to be. West Coast have the opposite problem. Don’t write the finals off just yet, Port are going to drop out of the hunt and Essendon will either collapse in a heap of soft tissue injuries or find themselves suspended by ASADA, there’s not that much of a gap in the ladder yet and there’s plenty of footy left to play……. on the other hand, it’s an odd year and the Cats look ready for a fourth!

  4. westcoastdave says:

    @Peter B: I was going to mention all the injuries, but after I’d listed most of the Eagles players as having limped off at some point it was getting too depressing. Interesting to see you mention Kerr like that – several times in my notes I wrote that he looked slow and half a step behind the play, a bit like Cox for much of the night. Get the impression neither of them is close to 100%.

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